A family finds a silver lining in Colorado | PostIndependent.com

A family finds a silver lining in Colorado

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

Bluebird days in Colorado often remind Carter Sharaf of Sept. 11, 2001 before the terror began.”I remember it was a beautiful day, 70 degrees,” he said. “It was like a Colorado day in New York. You had no idea you could die.”Sharaf describes that fateful morning – which resulted in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history – as typical at first. Like any other work day, he was sitting at his desk at the World Financial Center, as senior vice president of trading for Lehman Brothers.”I was thinking about my bonus,” he said.Right across the street, American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.”We could see debris falling from the sky, and people falling. We didn’t think it was a terrorist attack,” Sharaf said. “We just hung out thinking it was a commuter plane that had hit the building. I called (my wife) Maureen and said, ‘Some sort of plane hit the World Trade Center.’ People didn’t even know about it yet.”News outlets were also unaware that an attack was underway, Carter said. About 15 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower.That’s when virtually everyone knew it was an attack.”There was a big explosion,” he said. “When the second one hit, by that point all the TV people were there, and there was a sense that someone was trying to get these buildings down.”Sharaf and his co-workers decided to leave their office on the ninth floor, spilling out into the chaotic streets of New York.”The feeling was they’ve already hit two buildings, they’re probably going to go for three,” he said. “I got almost to China Town, looked down the block, and there were thousands of people in the street. I heard the loudest cracking thunder sound you could ever imagine. Then the building went down, and we were covered in dust, asbestos, whatever.”

Carter no longer works on Sept. 11.And neither will employees at the ICS/The Wireless Store Verizon Wireless cell phone stores, which the Sharafs own in Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Avon.”On that day, I just want to enjoy life and enjoy the sunshine. Last year I went on a hike, then went to the Hotel Jerome (in Aspen), had a cheeseburger and a few beers, and thought about my friends,” Carter said. “I don’t want sympathy, and it’s not to make a statement. It’s just a fitting tribute to my friends.”Friends killed on Sept. 11, 2001.He estimates around 50 friends and colleagues were killed at the World Trade Center. In the six months that followed, Carter attended at least 25 funerals.It wasn’t easy.”You go to all these funerals and memorials and you start questioning where you’re going in life. All of them were in the World Trade Center and there were no bodies. They were ash,” he said. “There were a bunch of funerals I went to by myself because my wife was overwhelmed. She could have been having one, too.”After those terrible attacks, after going to all those funerals, Carter decided that it was time for a change.In June 2005, Carter and Maureen relocated with their three kids Luke, 12, Dolores, 8, and Mae, 5 two dogs and two cats to the Roaring Fork Valley. It was a place they often visited on vacation. Danny McCooey, Carter’s brother-in-law who owns Maggie Moo’s ice cream parlor in Aspen, inspired him to make the change.”He got me thinking, ‘There’s a better way to get life done,'” Carter said.The Sharaf family found a home near El Jebel, while Carter and Maureen jumped at the chance to develop ICS/The Wireless Store business on the Western Slope.”It’s weird, one of those life epiphany things,” Carter said. “Maybe it took terrorists to make me realize that life isn’t all about money. And I don’t need the stress on my whole family.”

Maureen said life on the East Coast just wasn’t the same after Sept. 11.”It didn’t make sense like it did,” she said. “It took a long time for us to catch our breath.”She and Carter’s mother watched the Sept. 11 destruction from the family’s home in New Jersey. Maureen spent most of the day wondering if Carter would come home from work.”We were sitting there watching TV and it was eating away at us. It was really horrible. I was thinking the worst because I had no point of reference to anything like this before,” Maureen said. “After I knew he was OK, a woman called the house and said, ‘Your husband was walking down the street with my husband and he wanted to let you know that he was alive.”Of the nearly 3,000 causalities on Sept. 11, many were businessmen and fathers who never returned home from work that day, Carter said.”In my town, there were seven alone,” he said. “There was a lot of hugging and crying when I came home around 3 in the afternoon that day.”Since trading in views of the New York skyline for postcard views of the Colorado Rockies, the Sharaf family has embraced the mountain lifestyle. They enjoy family ski and hiking trips, attending social events around town, and watching Luke play football while Dad helps coach on the sidelines.”This area is a place you move into and you can feel totally safe in your surroundings,” Carter said. “You realize that New York may be the center of the cultural universe, but there are other places that are interesting. The only thing we miss is our social network of friends family we see a lot more because they’re constantly visiting us.”By trading New York for Colorado, life has slowed down a lot.”We’re really enjoying the slower pace. The pace is much different,” Carter said.Carter and Maureen both agree that life out west is more their speed. As the memories of Sept. 11, 2001, still linger five years later, the former New York couple have discovered a home and a mountain lifestyle.”I have no interest in leaving,” Carter said. “I guess this is our silver lining.” Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518aclark@postindependent.com

ICS/The Wireless Store Verizon Wireless cell phone stores in Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Avon are closed today in observance of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11. A community Sept. 11 observance and prayer for peace takes place at 7 p.m. today at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at First and Main streets in New Castle. Congregational Church of the Valley sponsors the event. Please bring poems, “snapshot” stories of families affected by this tragic event and photos, as well as prayers for peace. Please avoid politics. Call Rev. Warn at 876-2648 or 285-9273 for details, questions or suggestions.

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